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Huge number of border agent candidates failing DHS polygraphs, union suggests it’s intentional

Growing momentum in Congress to impose a legislative fix as many as two thirds of CBP candidates rejected over lie detector test.

Published: May 14, 2023 11:27pm

More than half of the job candidates seeking to become U.S. border patrol agents are failing the Homeland Security Department’s polygraph, though many passed such tests in other jobs, a pattern that is alarming some in Congress and leading a prominent union to suggest something sinister is happening. 

Brandon Judd, president of National Border Patrol Council union, told Just the News that half to two-thirds of applicants continue to fail the lie detector test, and it is crippling the Customers and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s ability to keep staffed with the ongoing border crisis.

"They're failing an awful lot of qualified candidates,” Judd told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Friday, the day the Trump-era Title 42 policy expired, ushering a new wave of illegal migrants across the southern border. "And the reason why we know that they're failing them is because these individuals have already passed other polygraph tests, or they fail ours and then they go pass a state polygraph test."

Judd, whose union has clashed regularly with the Biden administration over what it considers lax border-security policies having allowed historic numbers of illegal aliens to enter the country, said he believes the polygraph failures are intentional.

“We are losing out on a lot of applicants because they don't want the number of border patrol agents," he said. "They do not want to ensure that we have enough for patrol agents. Everything that this administration is doing – they are undermining the mission of the Border Patrol.

"And the reason that they're doing it is because we have activists that are running law enforcement right now. ... And those activists, they do not want the Border Patrol. They do not want law enforcement to succeed. It's all about defunding police. It's all about open borders."

Whether intentional or not, the massive polygraph failure rate and its implications for the border patrol are catching the attention of Congress.

"About two-thirds of the applicants for Border Patrol are being taken out because of a lie detector test, a lie detector test that there has got to be significant problems with,” said Rep. Austin Scott, a Georgia Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee. "I know people who have cleared every lie detector test that they've ever been through that didn't pass the one that Homeland Security has given them.

"We need to be fixing those types of problems and making it easier for people to serve in law enforcement and help protect us and not harder,” Scott told the Just the News, No Noise television show last week.

Reps. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Marianette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, in March reintroduced the Anti-Border Corruption Improvement Act, a bill that’s been offered since 2017 that amends a part of the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010 by waiving polygraphs for credentialed and qualified officers who’ve already passed prior lie detector tests. 

"As we face an unprecedented crisis at our border, it is more important than ever that we do not unnecessarily block otherwise qualified CBP applicants," Crenshaw said at the time. "CBP should be able to waive the polygraph for those who have shown they can hold public trust through current employment as a law enforcement officer or holding a clearance in the military. This will allow CBP to bring in new agents and officers immediately so we can respond to the ongoing crisis."

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the gold standard for police departments, suggests in its standards that lie detector tests should not be the sole hiring determinant for new police officers.

"The polygraph examination is never used by the department as a single or sole determinant of employment status," the standards read. "Rather, polygraph examinations and interpretations are an investigative aid to be considered with other information, including pretest, test or post-test interviews, psychological examinations and information gathered from the background investigation."

Homeland Security officials adamantly deny they are trying to hamper the border patrol while acknowledging the situation at the border is challenging.

"We have a plan, we are executing on that plan,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week. "Fundamentally, however, we are working within a broken immigration system that for decades has been in dire need of reform."

But officials have acknowledged the concerns about the lie detector test failure rates.

In 2017 when the problem was first highlighted by the Los Angeles Times, Kevin McAleenan, then-acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said the polygraph was a "significant deterrent and point of failure" for applicants and a recruiting.

The agency said it was looking at ideas like the one Crenshaw recently proposed.

Bu earlier this year, the New York Post reported the problem has persisted with at least half of applicants still being jettisoned by the polygraph.

To address the ongoing concerns, CBP recently released a "deep dive" video explaining to applicants what to expect when taking the polygraph exam and tips and recommendations on how to be successful.

"The federal government uses the polygraph exam to understand an applicants' past behavior, personal connections and personal integrity," the video explained.

Such assurances are not satisfying to some lawmakers, or the border patrol union.

"Way too many of our qualified applicants are going to fail, because you can manipulate polygraphs," Judd said of the current setup.

Said Rep. Miller-Meeks: "Our CBP agents and officers need more support, not more barriers."

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